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« My mom's breast cancer and our broken health care system | Main | SF Raw opening membership again: Sustainable, humanely raised, pastured meat, eggs and other products for dogs, cats -- and people! »

16 July 2009

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Christie Keith

Emily, no, they aren't going to be able to answer any of those questions. They've been very clear that they're being asked not to comment on the case and its legalities. But it's fair to say the world is watching right now, and I honestly believe they want to do the right thing.

Donna

Most reputable groups DO carry insurance - it's not an unreasonable request. Rescue groups need insurance for the most basic of functions - setting up adoption events or running classes, for example.



I'm not sure that there will be a flood of new groups able to absorb bust dogs if the insurance issue is waived (it would have helped Diane Jessup keep Vick dog Hector - but that's another story).



The greatest obstacle to saving victimized pit bulls tends to be lack of foster homes. Rescues are always full - pit bull rescues especially. The biggest help to these dogs will be if dog lovers stepped up to help their local rescues with that work.

H. Houlahan

Strikes me that a large national charitable organization is just the ticket to work out an umbrella policy for many small groups that need coverage.



And, you know, pay for it.

Christie Keith

Emily, I'm going to follow up today on the insurance issue and will have more info when I do. I spoke to HSMO a bit late in the day, and with the time difference between Jeane and me, we had to break off until today. (I'm in Pacific Time, as I think you know.)



My current understanding of the insurance problem is that each group that takes a dog has to have a very small liability insurance policy. But many small foster and rescue orgs don't carry it, and while a policy for a very small org might cost only a few hundred dollars, there are 407 dogs -- which could conceivably be a LOT of different organizations. Additionally, the insurance costs more if you're a LARGE group that takes in large numbers of dogs, however, most of those groups already have insurance.



In all likelihood the amount would be quite a bit less. It would be nice to have a national org create a fund that could be tapped for this purpose, but if there are leftover funds they could indeed go to the dog's care. I wasn't suggesting this as the only effort that should be funded, simply something that could go a long way towards getting the dogs into a foster or placement situation ASAP.



Nathan Winograd thinks HSMO could get a waiver of liability that would be just as good as insurance, but personally, I'm skeptical of that. We'll see.

Donna

Emily, you can foster one of the bust dogs under the umbrella of an established group to avoid the insurance issue. I know that you're a big Spindletop supporter, and Leah must have insurance.

Gina Spadafori

Just FYI:



We upgraded the blog software and seem to be having some spam filter problems. I just liberated a mess o'posts. If one of yours goes poof, please drop us an e-mail and we'll find it.



In the meantime, patience while we de-bug.

EmilyS

The Kong co. has a "seconds" program for shelters; I tried to get the info to HSMo but without a direct email, all I could do was send it on their "forms" contact. Hopefully they'll connect.



What's the deal with the insurance, though? $250k is an awfully lot of money that could go to direct care rather than insurance companies.

EmilyS

Thanks Christie, for the update on the insurance issue.



Can you ask the HSMo folks: Are these dogs going to be fostered out before final determination of guilt/innocence of each of the accused? If so, is there a system for returning the dogs to anyone found innocent (and remember, HSUS doesn't have a great record in getting convictions in these highprofile busts... Floyd Boudreaux being the prominent case in point)? Will the owners be charged some exorbitant ransom that they can't afford to get their dogs back? And for that matter, it's possible that these ACCUSED alleged scumbags actually care about and love their dogs and don't actually "torture them dogs daily". Is it inconceivable to return some of the dogs to the ACCUSED to care for themselves?



These cases can take years to finalize.. is there planning for keeping the dogs safe and healthy longterm?



Or is there just the assumption that these people "don't deserve" their dogs (like we saw too often during Katrina)?

Moira

Although I haven't worked on insurance for non-profits in a few years (I did quite a few in the past), I know there is at least on national insurance company that has a specialty division for non-profits that includes shelters and rescues in their list of acceptable risks. I would think there are probably several more as well as availability through the higher risk programs. I am sure cost is a consideration for some of the small rescues, however, in today's litigious society, $250,000 liability is not enough. They need at least $1,000,000 (with maybe a sublimit of $250,000 for bites).

Christie Keith

Don't know... did they start with an endowment? It's nitpicking on my part, anyway, because all charities that accept donations, even if they have other income streams, manage their resources to preserve capital, which they can do because of their donations, etc.



But the truth is, there's a relatively fixed pool of money that will come in as donations to any organization in a given year, and while it goes up and down according to the economy and the skill of the fundraising department etc., it's still a stream the organization considers somewhat predictable, and they budget accordingly. If HSUS or ASPCA or any other large organization has a budget category that an unplanned expense can be rolled into, and there's money there, all that's needed is the will to set it up. They might go on to raise money on the strength of having done this, or wanting to do it, but that money will come out of dollars they were expecting to get/going to get anyway, if not for this, for something else.



The only time you really get money you wouldn't have otherwise gotten from people who wouldn't normally donate is the really extraordinary tragedy like Hurricane Katrina. I've never given to the Red Cross befrore or since.

Gina Spadafori

Unless they have stock in Goldman Sachs,

The OTHER Pat

But where did the money for the investments come from in the first place? Probably donations, I"d think.

Christie Keith

I'm pretty sure HSUS also has income from its investments, not just donations. Although these days, that number might not add up to much!

Gina Spadafori

StefaniG, I think the larger point here is that however disgusting any normal person finds dogfighting, people are innocent until proven guilty in this country.

The OTHER Pat

It feels a bit like splitting hairs here, since - ultimately - ALL the HSUS money comes from contributions in the first place.



But what I took out of Christie's (and Gina's) discussion was that the HSUS should set up that fund outright, to pay insurance premiums for groups fostering dogs seized in raids they've had a hand in, without sending out some special additional "fundraising letters" to ostensibly pay for it.



And that in turn, this would be even BETTER for HSUS' bottom line because at present, increasing publicity over HSUS' lack of support or recommendations to kill the dogs is going to begin driving contributors away. While showing what beneficent overseers they "truly" are will preserve and probably even expand their donor base. Which - as has been written elsewhere - is their actual reason for existence anyway.



So - as Gina pointed out - the REASON for their apparent change of policy is less important than that they put their money where their mouth is. Because for them, it all comes down to the money anyway. And who cares, as long as "saved" dogs aren't summarily slaughtered shortly after their "salvation".

elaine

"Apparently each of the groups that might take the dogs will need to have liability insurance, which could be an obstacle for some of them. The total cost of such insurance, while prohibitive for many small organizations, wouldn’t add up to much — probably less than $250,000 for enough groups to take all the dogs."



To me, a quarter of a million dollars is "much" - in fact, it's really much, serious much, Definitely Big Deal Much. But that's just me.



I read somewhere, in someone's account of the aftermath of this latest series of raids, that H$U$ said it was "helping to take care of the dogs." I presume that is meant as a claim the organization is actually, this time, doing something FOR or WITH these dogs, rather than simply using them to fatten its war chest and, as in at least one previous instance, "helping" the seized dogs by recommending that they, including puppies-in-the-nest, be put to death.



Since H$U$ does not operate or fund shelters, I'm at a loss as to what "helping" might mean. It occurs to me, however, that $250,000 truly IS a trivial amount of money to H$U$. And surely, they could easily recoup it through donations inspired by clever marketing of such contribution. So, why isn't the Humane Society of the United States fronting the premium for whatever insurance is needed by legitimate rescue groups and individuals willing to take on the fostering and rehab of the "fighting raids" dogs in the custody of the HSMO???

Christie Keith

Well, Elaine, that was exactly my suggestion in this post.

elaine

Christie, I took a second look at this point in your post: "I’d love to see HSUS and some of the other national organizations that have been active in going after dog fighters — work I applaud — join together and set up a fund that otherwise qualified rescue groups could tap into to buy the required insurance."



I read "organizations setting up a fund" as soliciting public contributions on behalf of the groups that need to have this insurance. Perhaps that is not what you meant, sorry if I read that wrong.



What I meant is that the HSUS, to which a quarter-millions dollars is a trivial sum, should simply PAY for the insurance, period. I'll raise that to "the HSUS should pay the insurance premium for any group that is fostering dogs seized in the raids it engineers." That would be a direct contribution to the cost of caring for the dogs, whether they are seized from "squalid conditions" (that often can't be detected in the promotional photos) in breeding kennels, or "saved from horrific fighting injuries."



It sickens me that the H$U$ exploits these seizures (and some are justified) to raise money for its political activities and leaves the local shelter/rescue groups with the burden of raising the money to pay for the direct costs for care of the animals.

Christie Keith

I believe they should set up a fund with their own money.

StefaniG

This response relates to EmilyS July 16 8:42am post.



Dog fighting is a TOTALLY unrelated comparison to Katrina so I'm not sure why the two were used as such. It is my hope and prayer that whomever ultimately decides as to whether or not ANY of the animals seized from any dog fighting raid are returned to their owners(I hate that word) will not even consider letting ANY of these dogs go back to where they were before this bust. People can sometimes change, yes, but not in this case. If I misunderstood the comment, my apologies.

EmilyS

StephanieG: the comparison I was making was to rescuers of Katrina dogs who wouldn't give dogs back to their owners, citing a whole bunch of reasons related to the owners not adhering to the rescuer's standard of care. (certainly not comparing Katrina dog owners to dogfighters). IF any of the people whose dogs were seized in these busts is found innocent, I believe they deserve to get their dogs back, even if the way they care for the dogs is not what many would wish.

Our Pack

On the insurance note, I started out with insurance, except when I did this on my own before starting Our Pack. I wouldn't operate a business, training class and especially a rescue without good insurance. Calif., where we are, is the law suit capitol.

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